The state assembly election held in May 2013 saw people in Bengaluru coming out in large numbers to vote. There were 67.71 lakh voters on the voter roll, while population was 97 lakh in Bangalore. Everyone praised this as an achievement of election commission. However, were the voter rolls totally problem-free?
P G Bhat, who is a retired naval officer and software professional, also an activist working towards quality voter rolls for some years now, traces the recent problems in Bangalore’s voter rolls. The 27 constituencies of Bangalore had more than 66.83 lakh voters in April 2012. Then as a result of indiscrete mass deletions, the count reduced to about 55 lakh in December 2012.
With civil society movements and a court order to restore illegally deleted voters, a re-registration drive followed. Voter count in these 27 constituencies of Bangalore increased to 61.82 lakh in January 2013 and to 67.71 lakh in May 2013, before the assembly elections.
However, the re-registration meant huge expenditure and inconvenience to citizens. There was not even a departmental inquiry to find reasons for such wasted expenditure and inconvenience. “If the new registrations were needed because a large number of citizens were not registered earlier, the CEO office is still guilty of negligence. ECI guidelines require the CEO to check the population to elector ratio to know the level of registration and act continuously to improve P/E ratio,” says P G Bhat.
- Age being less than 18 or more than 120
- Very small difference between the age of parents and children
- Male’s relative is husband, and voter’s father is a female
- Very large number of people in some houses
- Duplicate EPIC numbers
- Spelling issues, single character names, strange characters, single name spelt differently as voter and relationship
- Blank house number, blank fields, blank EPIC number
- No audit trails, no date stamps.
- Incorrect format of EPIC number
- No photograph
- Values replaced by absurd characters
- Existing names / ids replaced by someone else’s or altogether lost.
- Corrected voter record actually being replaced by the records of someone else who was after the person whose records were replaced.
- The photos of the individual on the voter id not matching that on the electoral roll
Matching voter-name, age, sex, and relation names, comparing photographs of suspected duplicates using software, field check where the photographs match – these three steps will effectively eliminate duplicates, opines Bhat. He has also shared a software prototype with ECI.
Duplicate entries, errors still exist
“Election Commission claims to have a deduplication software, which does not work satisfactorily. Also, data entry software does not block duplicate entries. Thus, when lakhs of new records were created, thousands of them were duplicate entries. Shantinagar constituency boasts of the cleanest electoral rolls in Bangalore. But we found about 7,000 easily identifiable duplicate entries in this assembly,” says Bhat.
Other constituencies that have duplications according to Bhat: Byatarayanapura -152 (12,000); Rajarajeshwari Nagar – 154 (11,000); Malleshwaram – 157 (4,600); Gandhinagar -164 (8,500); Rajajinagar -165 (5,000); BTM layout – 172 (6,000); Mahadevpura -174 (14,000)
Interestingly, suspected duplicates are observed in case of many high profile voters. For example, Wife of B A Basavaraja, MLA of K R Puram, seems to have 3 voter ids, on the same address. S Muniraju, MLA of Dasarahalli seems to have 3 entries. Sathish Reddy, MLA of Bommanahalli seems to have 2 entries in the voter list.
More than 20 voters in one house!
An excel sheet based on last voter roll, compiled by P G Bhat throws in surprising data. Most MLAs in Bangalore seem to have very big joint families – at least according to the voter roll!
For example, house number 11 in part number AC1610144 has C V Raman Nagar MLA Raghu S as the resident. Apart from Raghu, it also has 24 other voters. Similarly, N A Haris has 16 people. R V Devaraj has 18 voters in his home, mostly looking like two families with different surnames. S R Vishwanath has 15 voters in his house.
Malleshwaram MLA Ashwath Narayan has 13 members, of whom most seem unrelated to each other. Dasarahalli MLA Muniraju S has 15 voters in his house, out of which three belong to his own name and identity! Chamrajpet MLA Zameer Ahmad Khan has 14 voters in his house.
Some of these cases might be the cases of no address change or non-deletion of old entries. In other cases, the question is, how is it possible to give proof of residence and address for so many people, at one address.
Entries duplicated between Delhi and Karnataka?
P G Bhat has also compiled a list of possible 8725 duplications between voter rolls of Karnataka and Delhi. Most of these entries have the same name, same age, sex and relative’s name, sometimes with a small spelling variation.
Bhat has written to the related officials of Election Commission in Delhi, suggesting them to look into the possible duplication issue, by comparing photos. Bhat says that electoral rolls of Delhi have improved in quality after this. “The Additional CEO has promised better final rolls before the elections. I would analyse them when published and give feedback and offer help,” he adds.
Despite registering, many people not on list yet
Bindu Balan, a resident of Springfields apartments in Bellandur, along with her husband, checked the voters’ list online to ensure that their names were there in the list. “Both our names were there. We had applied for this and received the same sometime in 2007. We have also voted twice using the card,” says Bindu, in an email to Citizen Matters.
However on May 5, 2013, when the couple went to vote, their names were missing from the list, though the message to the Election Commission system still showed their names in the list for the same booth. Finally they weren’t allowed to vote.
Bindu wasn’t the only one faced this problem. Many other people faced various problems on the voting day.
Deleted voters may not have been restored
“The work under crisis and a pathetically low quality software corrupted the data in some ways,” adds Bhat, and lists out the problems existing in voter rolls.
Thousands of voter records got corrupted during online modification and deleted from the system. The haste to restore them resulted in equal numbers of duplicate records. This was brought to the notice of CEO, samples were provided, and were discussed in a meeting on 05 March 2013. The CEO stopped online feature and promised to correct the records.
In a meeting on 04 June 2013, he reiterated that the records were corrected before publishing the rolls on 02 May 2013. But Bhat argues that it is not true. “I have a list of 4,500 irrefutable cases of such records, which I have sent to the CEO, to which he has not responded,” he says.
Thus, large numbers of deleted voters remain unrestored, which is a contempt of court. Activists who compared the voter counts by houses before the mass deletions and now, have found a gap of lakhs of voters. Some of the deletions would be genuine and others require restoration.
“CEO has promised several times that he would conduct a survey to decide the action; but he does not seem to have done so. If the citizens don’t act, these voters would not return to the electoral rolls and would be denied their right to vote,” warns Bhat.
Lot more to be cleaned up
“We can estimate that the 27 constituencies in the city will have about 2 lakh easily identifiable duplicate entries, i.e. about 3% of the entries are duplicates. Deeper analysis will help to identify more duplicate entries,” adds Bhat.
Bhat, based on census-2011 and the counts from electoral rolls, estimates that about 80% of people aged between 18 and 19 and about 65% below 25 are not registered.
Other absurd errors like illegal age, wrong sex, wrong relationship, blank fields, etc. persist. “A systematic approach with software tools will reduce the work and make the results more accurate,” Bhat opines. It remains to be seen whether the voter roll draft to be published this week will be clean enough to ensure a free and fair election where no eligible person is denied voting.
Updated as per feedback by P G Bhat.
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